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HomeLife & StyleBook Review: ‘Are You Enjoying?’ - A light, entertaining & humorous book

Book Review: ‘Are You Enjoying?’ – A light, entertaining & humorous book

Are You Enjoying? is a collection of short stories published by Bloomsbury; a powerful and gripping anthology penned by the multi-talented Mira Sethi, who up till now, was known to Pakistanis solely for her wonderful performances in films and TV dramas.

If collectively viewed, the stories in Are You Enjoying talk of the issues of contemporary life in Pakistan – the notions of love, betrayal, identity and the more significant question of how patriarchy hovers over a woman, denying her her basic rights and treating her like an object of mere carnal pleasure. It beautifully weaves the nature of the male sex in our society which can get away with everything but is reminded of centuries old traditions when women decide to transgress boundaries set by the society.

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The first story, Mini Apple and the last story, Are You Enjoying share similar thematic concerns; both being narratives revolving around exploitation, extra-marital affairs, divorce and heartbreak. They illuminate the personalities of men as shaped by the society, resulting in making them believe in the theory of use and abuse. The stories probe deep into the psyche of Eastern men, most of whom keep their vileness hidden as long as everything is going smoothly. As soon as they sense trouble, they start searching for other options, going for extra-marital affairs to avoid taking responsibility. And so begins a journey of sin and immorality!

In Mini Apple and Breezy Blessings, Sethi also captures the reality of the seemingly glamorous showbiz industry, shedding light upon its harsh realities by saying that you reach the pinnacle in showbiz when ‘even in’ your ‘gloomiest moments’ you ‘can transform your mood at a moment’s notice.’ (Mini Apple)

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‘It’s showbiz, na. You have to look like Deepika, work like a donkey and think like a man.’ (Breezy Blessings)

Sethi, talking from her own experience as well, relates how showbiz is not as fun as it may seem on a superficial glance. It is demanding and it requires the ability to move out of your comfort zone and step into a character you are not. At times, the very involvement required is so intense that you become the character you play, hence losing your identity in the process of becoming someone else.

In A Life of Its Own, the author draws personality sketches of two women, Farah & ZB. Despite clashes between the mother and daughter-in-law, they both share a strong bond as they happen to be the women of modern times. Sethi points at how the society has evolved from giving women no rights to women leading the country and voicing their concerns. No longer is it the age where women were restricted to the domestic arena. The women of today are influential, and although ZB belongs to the past generation, her outlook towards life is open-minded and thus inspirational. However, the story addresses more potent issues such as that of family honour. As a girl is paraded naked in the village of Maujpur to protect the family’s honour, Farah & ZB both join hands to help the girl get justice.

A Man for his Time takes the issue of family honour forward to show how an orthodox man, Professor Jamil brainwashes a young man, Hafeez into believing that ‘Women have a bigger agenda. They want the parliament to change the words ‘honor killing’ into ‘murder.’ Waqas, Jamil’s cousin and his sister’s fiance is blackmailed by Jamil, the orthodox professor into physical intimacy with another man. As Hafeez finds out, he threatens to break the engagement. What happens next is for the reader to find out!

The next story, Tomboy is light and entertaining, the following quote from it being the most hilarious one:

‘The thing with older men is that nothing shocks them. They don’t flinch when I fart during sex.’

However, the story discusses other important issues of patriarchy as a societal ill.

‘In this society marriage gives women wings.’

‘And as soon as an actress becomes a superstar, she drops her husband like a hot paratha. Marriage is patriarchy; it’s wild that I still have to explain this to people. First comes love then comes rape?’

Sethi describes marriage and its perils in a manner that is bold and daring. Marriage is a gamble and Sethi points to how marriage is a trap to clip a woman’s wings. Marriage is not ‘the end’ or definite. It is not a compulsion and is a matter of choice.

The book, in its entirety, delineates the surroundings intensely. The stories are well-crafted and the descriptions are spell-binding. Sethi does a fantastic job with describing the environment-natural and urban. From detailed characterization to illustrating the ambience and natural settings, Sethi does a remarkable job. The reader can easily make out entire scenarios in mind without struggling. The choice of diction and its execution is fantastic.

 

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